More long term research needed to aid producers
Jenna Bagnall, a graduate student in agriculture economics at the University of Wyoming, takes notes during a discussion at one of the sustainable ag project test plots.
By SANDRA HANSEN
LINGLE, Wyo. – While no one would argue the value in long term research, there are many challenges to securing that kind of information. The data are important to any form of agriculture production, whether organic, fallow/crop, or no-till practices. The more information available, the better the likelihood of improving, or at least sustaining productivity.
These topics were included in a presentation by Neil Hansen, associate professor of soil science at Colorado State University, who leads a field-based research program that addresses irrigated and dryland cropping systems. Conservation tillage, crop rotation, limited irrigation, soil moisture, and water shortages are emphasized in his research.
During a July 19 program, Hansen reviewed some of the information obtained from the project that began in 1985, and the value of the experience researchers had encountered. Above all else, he stressed the importance of long-term research. Two, three or four years just aren’t enough to build a knowledge base for crop production on the High Plains, he said.
Producers rely on results of the research to make day to day decisions that will increase their profitability, and researchers rely on the information to project potential outcomes in the future. Both use the information for their management systems.
In today’s economic climate, and global market, the smallest of changes in field operations can have dramatic influences on production.
Hansen said it is difficult to establish profitability if producers are not armed with the knowledge they need in order to deal with weather, government regulations, and other hurdles.
One management tool is fairly easy to incorporate, and it saves time and money. No-till systems help eliminate labor, provide residue that will enrich the soil, and reduce input costs. It is one factor in a sustainable agriculture program that incorporates crop production and livestock production, part of the sustainable research project underway at the UW Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Center near Lingle.
Jenna Meeks, project coordinator, reported on findings to date on the three years of research. One of the obvious results is improved soil quality, which leads to better water use and nutrient supply.
To get the most from research projects, Hansen said that research funding needs to change, to allow researchers to gather more data for the long term. These projects are necessary in order to get a broader perspective. However, this is going to be difficult to accomplish because stable yet flexible funding is necessary to meet changes that occur over time, and that is hard to find.
“The more we understand, the better we can manage,” Hansen told the group. “What we do today and tomorrow does affect long-term production of the land. That’s the really neat story.”
Another sustainable agriculture field day at SAREC is scheduled for September.
For more information on the Lingle project, contact Meeks at SAREC, 307-837-2000.
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